Lebanon, Pennsylvania – Central Lebanon Valley

March 26, 2024

Lebanon, Pennsylvania

A City on the Rise


Steady Growth and Ongoing Transformation ensure an enviable lifestyle for residents

As the urban core of Lebanon County, the fourth fastest growing county in the state, the city of Lebanon is experiencing a resurgence of population and industry which it hasn’t witnessed since the 1960’s. The latest data shows a 7.7% growth rate, making it the fourth fastest-growing county in the state. As a city, Lebanon stands as a testament to revitalization, currently hosting 26,814 residents.

“I feel like we’re on the verge of something really good here,” boasts Mayor Sherry Capello.

Mayor Sherry Capello

“We’ve had steady and consistent investment since I became mayor in 2010. Not including any city projects, we’ve had more than $230 million invested in construction improvement projects between 2010 and 2023. We’ve acquired over $75 million in grants to improve police, fire, and public works operations, enhance our parks, make environmental improvements, and foster economic development. We’ve had a lot of activity over the last 15 years, but we still have a ways to go.”

A Tapestry of History, Culture, and Culinary Delights

With its rich history dating back to its settlement in 1720, Lebanon has a unique and diverse cultural heritage. Notably, Lebanon is renowned for originating Lebanon Bologna, a tradition dating back to the 1700s when German immigrants, part of the Pennsylvania Dutch community, brought their sausage-making skills to the region.

Over the years, this culinary art has evolved into a local, regional, and even nationwide phenomenon, with Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats having its roots in Lebanon, along with Godshall’s Quality Meats which make bologna and other products.

“We feel that that strengthens us,” Capello conveys. “Not only were we a steel town, but we’re a bologna-making town as well. We feel that the tradition of making bologna, figuring out a way to preserve it, and still have it hundreds of years later, just really strengthens our local identity of being hard-working and resourceful.”

Lebanon has also become synonymous with other culinary delights, such as opera fudge—a sweet treat that originated as a snack for opera-goers and evolved into a popular local delicacy.

Capello describes, “It’s just a creamy sweet center dipped in dark chocolate. Three local businesses sell them.” These include home-based candy makers Van Winkle, a family business established 70 years ago, Wertz Candies, who are also known for their homemade caramel corn, and Smith’s Candy, a third-generation candy store in the county.

In addition, Lebanon is proud to be home to businesses like Shuey’s Pretzels, a family-owned enterprise with a 97-year history, specializing in soft and hard pretzels. “We have some unique foodie things here that we’re trying to build upon,” she says.

A Connected Community

The city is actively investing in infrastructure and amenities to attract both locals and visitors. Efficient transportation is a key area of concentration, with Lebanon Transit expanding its services, including additional routes and evening hours, in an attempt to meet the diverse needs of the community.

“Life doesn’t stop at five o’clock,” stresses Capello. “So, I’m very excited to see what happens and if we’ll get more business, more people downtown, moving around throughout the city.”

In addition, the community prides itself on being a walker’s paradise, boasting a walk score of 91 out of 100. A major streetscape improvement project, currently underway, aims to enhance the aesthetic appeal and walkability of the city.

Mayor Capello expands, “We’re replacing the curb with stamped brick concrete, and doing the sidewalk, trees, tree grates, adding some additional Victorian lighting. It’s more than halfway done and we’re very excited.”

Lebanon’s dedication to connectivity extends to its park system and strategic spur connectors.  Design plans are underway to connect Coleman Memorial Park to the neighboring Union Canal Park and the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.

The Rail Trail allows travel from Lebanon County to Lancaster County and Dauphin County. Mayor Capello emphasizes ongoing efforts to connect the Veterans Memorial Walkway to Wengert Park, to the trail’s founder and further connecting to neighboring municipalities.

Hailed as the most beautiful natural park in the state by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Coleman Memorial Park has seen recent expansions, including a bike and skatepark, a top-rated disc golf course, and the upcoming addition of a dog park.

“We have a lot of great recreational options that we’re hoping can attract people here.  The community’s recreation trails include the self-guided walking Heritage Trail, self-guided Historic Gems bike trail and our popular event, Tour de Lebanon Valley, which according to the Community Health Council “promotes the beauty of Lebanon Valley through cycling”.  The proposed Liberty Park Trail project next to City Hall will further enhance green space downtown,” adds the mayor.

“We also have Stoever’s Dam Park, which has a nature barn, a lot of walking trails, fishing, camping, cross country skiing, and boating. We have a lot of great recreational options that we’re hoping can attract people here.”

The community’s recreation trails are also top-notch and include the Tour de Lebanon, Heritage Trail, and Historic Gems Trail. The addition of Liberty Park Trail next to City Hall further enhances green space downtown and provides a location for the community to gather.


Downtown Revitalization and Economic Development

The relocation of city offices to downtown Lebanon is hoped to spur further economic revitalization in the area. “We do know that there were some businesses that moved downtown because City Hall moved here. Not only did we move City Hall here, except for our public works operations, but everything else came too. Our fire leadership, our police department, and all of the police vehicles are here. People have felt an increase in that perception of public safety because they are seeing the police cars come and go,” she shares.

To further inspire rejuvenation in the city core, facade improvement grants were facilitated in collaboration with the Downtown Lebanon organization. The city is also collaborating with retail development and recruitment firm, Retail Strategies, as Capello relays, “We are looking to agree to come up with a strategy for the downtown. Unfortunately, we did lose a few businesses to COVID. And we’ve had a few that are struggling to either come back or to start a new venture. So, we feel like they need some help. Retail Strategies believes that they can help us by taking the next step to create an exciting destination for tourists and local visitors.”

Part of this effort includes bringing more experiences to the downtown, giving visitors a reason to stay and explore after having a meal at one of the local restaurants. She notes that other important partners in the city’s tourism sector include the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visit Lebanon Valley.

Infrastructure Enhancement and Housing Development

Over the past two years, the city has undertaken significant infrastructure projects, collaborating with PennDOT to enhance highways 422 and 72, which run through Lebanon. In addition, Capello conveys that a substantial portion of the American Rescue Plan funds were allocated to paving projects throughout the community.

Simultaneously, utility work, including water and sewer infrastructure improvements, has accompanied these resurfacing projects. “A lot of the residents are ready for all of this paving work to be done,” she admits. “Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of disruption in traffic in the last couple of years.”

Housing remains a priority, with an emphasis on increasing density and attracting more young people. Although there is limited land available, the city has embraced zoning changes to accommodate growth and is working with developers to address housing needs.

“We have one in particular, it’s going to be about 300 units. And that is at a former Lebanon Catholic School site. It’s going to be some townhouses, but mostly apartments,” recounts Capello. “We have more affordable housing than the surrounding municipalities throughout the county, but we need more. If we’re a fastest growing county, then that means not only in development and businesses, but that also means people are coming here, so we need housing.”

Economic Landscape and Business Diversity

Lebanon hosts a diverse range of businesses, including Whole Plants, a medical marijuana growing and processing facility, that will employ approximately 160 people in the community. As for where the residents of Lebanon are working, Capello breaks it down, noting that key economic sectors include healthcare, finance, retail, personal services, and education. The city’s economy consists of 18 super sectors, with wholesale contributing 44%, notably tied to logistics and transportation, especially in food production.

A Bright Outlook

Mayor Capello expresses optimism about Lebanon’s future, pointing to steady and consistent investment and the city’s growing appeal. She says the focus will be on attracting families and young people, forging ahead with plans to enhance recreational opportunities and experiences.

Showcasing abundant outdoor assets, a robust healthcare presence featuring the VA Medical Center and WellSpan Good Samaritan Health, and quality educational options like HACC and Lebanon Valley College, Capello underscores the evolving cultural landscape, including a growing Hispanic population contributing to a diverse and inclusive community.

In summary, she asserts, “We have all the necessary elements to create a great life here in Lebanon.”


Lebanon, Pennsylvania

What: A Growing City and the County seat of Lebanon County

Where: Central Lebanon Valley, Pennsylvania

Website: www.lebanonpa.org


Lebanon Valley College – www.lvc.edu

Located in nearby Annville, PA, Lebanon Valley College (LVC) is an educational and employment hub for Lebanon city and its region. LVC offers 50 undergraduate majors and 25 graduate degrees and certificates. It is known for its strengths in the health professions, teaching, sciences, business, and digital media. Online and hybrid graduate programs for working professionals include an MBA with several concentrations, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Education, and Intelligence & Security Studies. Admitted undergraduates are guaranteed to receive merit scholarships.

The College’s alumni are highly skilled educators, health professionals, and business leaders, with over 2,300 living in Lebanon County. LVC’s students, faculty, employees, and alumni positively affect all areas of society. They buy goods and services that create jobs, support local businesses, buy homes, and serve as charitable organization volunteers and board members.

LVC students volunteer over 20,000 hours annually. The College’s Center for Speech, Language, and Hearing Disorders and student-run CURE physical therapy clinic provide free evaluations and interventions for community members. The College continually enhances its offerings to support community needs, including through a new Bachelor of Nursing major. LVC’s hallmark Breen Center for Career & Professional development supports students in achieving career success.

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